After Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, four other players were added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list. One of those players was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins, running back Jaylen Samuels, and linebacker Vince Williams were also added to the list.
It’s important to note that just because a player is on the list, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are sick. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Roethlisberger tested negative but came into close contact with, I assume, McDonald and is being kept away from the rest of the team in the meantime. The source also told Schefter that Roethlisberger has “‘been diligent’ with his behavior around others.” If the four players keep testing negative throughout Saturday, Big Ben and the rest of them can be taken off the list and still play against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger was deemed a high-risk, close contact, per source. Provided he passes COVID tests this week, he would be eligible to come off the list Saturday and play Sunday against the Bengals.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 10, 2020
The Steelers haven’t had many internal pandemic issues before this but they were a team who had to rearrange their schedule after the Tennessee Titans had an outbreak. Their Week 4 contest got moved to Week 7 while the Titans recovered. Last week, the Steelers were fined $250,000 and Tomlin $100,000 for not wearing a mask at all times on the sidelines against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Steelers are 8-0 and while what’s most important is everybody’s health, on the field, this may derail what is the Steelers’ best start in team history. They have a two-game lead on the Ravens (with tiebreaker) for the AFC North but a Thanksgiving matchup along with the unknown of who’s going to be playing the next couple weeks might cause that lead to evaporate a month from now.
As far as Roethlisberger is concerned, COVID risk or not, he probably wasn’t going to be practicing that much this week. After getting injuries to both knees, the Steelers were “cautiously optimistic” he would play against the Bengals so while I’m sure he would like to not be at high risk of getting COVID-19, Roethlisberger’s preparation for the Bengals probably haven’t changed all that much.
But back to McDonald, it’s unknown exactly when McDonald actually contracted the virus, but it’s entirely likely he got it before Monday’s positive test. McDonald was on the team plane to Dallas and played against the Cowboys on Sunday, and while he did nothing wrong because he wouldn’t have known he was sick, that doesn’t change that other people may have been exposed. That’s the difficulty when it comes to really containing this virus. As of Tuesday morning, the Cowboys haven’t revealed anyone being added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list but canceled Wednesday’s practice as they enter their bye week.